Tejada Does it All Inside the Park

That’s how you respond to a bad loss. Your ace gets on the mound and starts dealing. Then your offense explodes with every starter getting a hit. By the time the Phillies knew what happened the game was over. 

The tone was set when Matt Harvey started the game by striking out the side in the first. We used to talk about Harvey as a stopper. A start to the game like this shows those old stopper credentials. Sure, it wasn’t a terrific start overall, but he would keep the Phillies at bay to secure the victory. Overall, he would go 6.1 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 9 K, and 4 ER. 

The game seemed over by the third inning. In the second inning, Kelly Johnson opened the scoring by doubling home Daniel Murphy. Johnson would score on Ruben Tejada‘s inside the park home run putting the Mets up 3-0. The home run was the result of Domonic Brown flipping over the short RF side wall and suffering a concussion. In the third Murphy would hit an RBI double , and he would score on another opposite field homerun by Michael Conforto. At the end of three, the Mets lead 6-0. 

The Mets did have a couple of pieces of bad news today. First, Wilmer Flores‘ grandfather is ailing. Flores flew to Venezuela to be with him. I hope everything will be alright, and I have his family in my prayers. 

The second piece of bad news was that Murphy was forced to leave the game with a quad injury. With Lucas Duda still on the DL, this will probably press Michael Cuddyer into everyday 1B duties. If this is a bad injury, like the one Murphy suffered earlier this year, he will be out for a while. That’s a shame because it was great seeing him in a pennant race again

There was also two bizarre plays. Ironically, the first occurred when Eric Young, Jr. pinch ran for Conforto. Like Monday night, EY had the base stolen until EY came off the base. There was no replay needed this time. The second bizarre play happened when the Phillies were threatening in the seventh. That’s when Odubel Herrera ran way out of the baseline onto the grass to avoid a rage from Johnson. He was ruled out for running out of the baseline, and when Johnson threw to first, the double play was complete. 

It should also be noted that Yoenis Cespedes giveth and he taketh. He’s prone to the bone-headed play. Tonight, he got thrown out at third with two outs ending a rally in the sixth. However, he would come back in the eighth and mash a homerun. It’s a night where you can see why this is his fourth team in one calendar year.  It’s also a night where you question why anyone would give up on him. 

Overall, the night belonged to Tejada who went 2-4 with a run scored, four RBI, and that inside the park homerun. It was nice to see him and the Mets respond well tonight. It was a good 8-4 win. 

Mets Playing Short in the Infield

There’s a saying in the NFL that if you have two QBs, you really don’t have a QB. The principal us that if you truly have a good QB, there’s no need for a QB competition. As a Giants fan, I remember the Dave Brown/Kent Graham days. People always debated who should start. It turned out everyone was wrong. When Eli Manning came along, there was no debate, and there have been two Super Bowls. 

I was thinking of this as I was contemplating the Mets SS situation. From my estimation, Wilmer Flores plays SS with flyball pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom. Collins plays Ruben Tejada with groundballs pitchers like Jon Niese. Essentially, Collins is trying to hide Flores’ poor defense with flyball pitchers while hiding Tejada’s poor bat by playing him only with the groundballs pitchers. In essence, the Mets don’t have a good SS option right now, so Collins is forced to mix and match like with Dave Brown and Kent Graham. 

This wouldn’t be an issue if either Flores or Tejada fit the bill. Flores was supposed to be the offensive option. He’s hit .262/.294/.411, and that’s after a terrific last 20 games where he’s hit .324/.360/.521. Note, if he hits like this, you can live with his poor glove at SS. 

Now, Flores may not be the disaster defensively that I thought he might be originally. That’s a testament to his work ethic. Last year, his UZR at SS was 4.0, which is above average. This year, he’s at -2.8, which is below average. Overall, in a limited sample size, the advanced statistics tell us he has decent range. 

Now, this is where the advanced statistics conflict with the eye test. As per my eye test, he has limited range at SS. Furthermore, even though he’s better lately, he’s had trouble turning the double play. Also, why I don’t think errors are necessarily a true measure of defensive ability, it should be noted that Flores has the fifth most errors at SS in the NL despite playing only 85 out of a possible 132 games there. 

With his struggling defense, it seemed Collins was forced to play Tejada at SS. The problem is despite the Mets assumptions, Tejada is not a good defensive SS. The advanced statistics show his UZR is -5.2, which rates to be quite a below average defensive SS. To be fair, a partial season of UZR data is not entirely reliable. Instead, we should look at his career UZR, which is -1.1. Generally, speaking he’s been slightly below average. 

However, when applying the eye test, we see a SS who is much steadier than Flores. For all of Tejada’s faults, he looks to be more comfortable at SS, makes the routine play, and he is much better turning the double play. The problem is that’s all he is – steady. He will never even be thought of in the Gold a Glove competition. Furthermore, with a .253/.334/.338 triple slash line, it’s not like he’s hitting enough to justify his steady glove. 

That puts Collins in a bind. He had to choose between a better hitter who’s a poor fielder and a steady at best fielder who doesn’t hit well. In sum, he doesn’t have a real SS option. I have to admit that despite his recent rough stretch, Collins has handled this situation well.  He’s going to have to continue as the Mets have no other SS on the 40 man roster and cannot trade for one now. Actually they can, but that player won’t be eligible for the playoffs. 

It’s amazing to think the Mets are here with no SS. Hopefully, Tejada or Flores will step up and take control of the situation. If not, I trust Collins can continue juggling the situation for now without dropping a ball. 

Where Does Matz Belong?

The Mets have recently made a few very important announcements regarding Steven Matz:

  1. Matz will spot start in place of Noah Syndergaard on Saturday;
  2. The Mets will shift to a six man rotation; and
  3. Matz will not be a bullpen option

In my opinion, the Mets are trying to accomplish two things: (1) they’re trying to reduce the innings of the stud muffins; and (2) they’re holding open auditions for the postseason rotation. I’m still not sure they’re not tempting fate

Now, let’s start with the presumption that Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be in the postseason rotation. This leaves two open slots in the rotation because we know the Mets will not allow anyone to start a game on three days rest. Let’s look at the candidates individually. 

Noah Syndergaard

By any measure, Thor is the Mets third best starter. He is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He averages just over a strikeout per inning. His 3.38 FIP is the third best on the team, and it profiles him as an above average to great starting pitcher. So what’s the problem?

First, more so than any other pitcher, he has an innings limit problem. Second, he has dramatic home/road splits. He has had 10 home and 10 road starts. Here’s how he’s fared: 

  • Home: 7-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.831 WHIP
  • Road: 1-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.558 WHIP

So, he is really good at home, but he’s bad on the road. One way to cure this is to set up the postseason rotation so he only starts at home. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Another thing to look at is how he’s pitched on the road against the Mets possible play-off opponents:

  • 5/12 @ Cubs (first career start): L, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 3 ER
  • 7/3 @ Dodgers: ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
  • 7/17 @ Cardinals: L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER

Looking at these stats, I’m comfortable with him starting on the road at these places. He needs to be in the rotation. 

Jon Niese

Well, we saw the return of the bad Jon Niese yesterday. He’s had a rough year to the tune of 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His FIP is a team worst 4.44 FIP, which profiles him as a bad starting pitcher this year. 

We may have once assumed he was a lock for the postseason rotation after his strong June and July. He had respective ERAs of 3.00 and 2.87. His respective WHIPs were 1.333 and 1.021. Then the wheels came off. In August, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP.  He continued the free fall last night. He cannot be an option for the postseason roster. 

Bartolo Colon

Where to begin with Bartolo Colon?  He’s 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He has a 3.82 FIP, which profiles as an average starting pitcher, which is more than Niese can say. However, if you excuse the pun, Colon has fattened up on some bad teams.

Against the NL East, Colon has gone 11-1 with a 3.01 ERA.  That means against non-NL East teams, his record is 1-10. Against possible playoff teams (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates), he has gone 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. These aren’t great stats, and this may open the door for Matz. 

Steven Matz

First off, let’s start with the premise that while his first two starts were fun, we can’t glean anything from them. He’s a top prospect, but he is not better than Harvey or deGrom. You’d be hard pressed to convince me he’s better than Thor. Second, let’s remember he’s still building up arm strength. In his last start, he only threw 77 pitches. Finally, he won’t be pitching against the best teams in baseball. 

If the Mets go with a six man rotation starting on Saturday, Matz will make the following starts:

  1. 9/5 at Marlins
  2. 9/11 at Braves
  3. 9/18 vs. Yankees
  4. 9/24 at Reds
  5. 10/1 at Phillies

As we see with Colon, you can pitch well against bad teams, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pitch well against the good teams. No one should read anything into starts against four bad teams . . . even if they’re bad starts.  No one should. Unfortunately, if he’s great, someone might. That’s dangerous.

Bullpen Option 

You know what you could determine?  You can determine if Matz can pitch in the bullpen. You can put him in high leverage spots. If you’re truly concerned about his health, you can institute a modified version of the Joba Rules. However, I have a real problem believing the Mets sincerity on the issue when Dan Warthen is playing doctor when Matz had injury complaints. Also, this is a way of limiting his innings and how much he needs to pitch with an abdominal tear. 

The Cardinals are famous for this. Mets fans know with Adam Wainwright how well this works.  We saw the Rays use this effectively in 2008 with David Price when they won the AL Pennant. I think the careers of Wainwright and Price have turned out just fine. 

After Matz has his start on Saturday, the Mets should move him to the bullpen. If you care about his health, you will limit his innings. You don’t use a September stretch run to stretch him out. Players get hurt that way. If you don’t want him to get hurt, put him in the bullpen. Let him pitch multiple innings. Give him a few days off afterwards. See how he responds. 

If he responds well, you have a dangerous weapon in the bullpen come October. If you’re not sold, just remember what happened at the All Star Game. Imagine that in a playoff game . . . . 

Wilmer Flores

Now batting for the New York Mets, the shortstop, Wilmer Flores!

Parnell Shouldn’t Be Booed. 

Personally, I don’t like it when people tell me not to boo someone. I’m not specifically telling you not to boo Bobby Parnell. It’s your right, and he’s been bad. He’s 1-3 with a 6.52 ERA. There’s a lot of things you want to say to that, but this is a family friendly blog. 

Before I continue, it should be noted I was never a fan of Parnell. His fastball is straight, and he was in love with it. He had the attitude that he blew it past hitters in the minors, so it should work in the majors. As you can see, my defense of him has nothing to do with performance. 

I defend him because Parnell has been set up to fail this year. He went down last April and needed Tommy John surgery. Matt Harvey was not allowed on a mound until 10 months after the surgery. He didn’t come back until 20 months after the surgery. The normal timetable is around 12-18 months.  However, most people agree a pitcher needs 18 months. Parnell was given much less time. In fact, he was pitching at 11 months and called-up after 14 months

At first, the narrative was he had diminished velocity, but he was learning how to pitch more effectively. Then it was that Parnell was gaining some velocity, but the results weren’t quite there. Finally, it was he was terrible. Begrudgingly, he agreed to be put on the DL. We all suspected it was to get his head and mechanics right. 

When September 1st passed, Parnell was activated. He spent his time on the DL working on his mechanics with Dan Warthen, who presumably said Parnell was ready to go last night. He wasn’t. When are the Mets going to seriously look at what’s going on with Warthen and the pitching staff?  If you watched last night, you knew Parnell wasn’t ready to return. 

I know the Mets were cautious with Harvey, and they should’ve.  He’s a tremendous asset. However, just because Parnell’s a free agent at the end of the year doesn’t mean you get to rush his rehab, and yes, it was rushed. He didn’t get his full velocity back, and he was still having trouble finding the strikezone. 

Despite all of this, Parnell still works hard. He’s at his locker fielding questions after another rough outing. His only transgression was making dumb statements about the fans. If you want to boo him for that, I understand. If you’re booing the results, boo Terry Collins. Boo Warthen. Boo Sandy Alderson. They’re the ones that created the situation. 

I just can’t bring myself to boo someone who is set up to fail. I may feel differently when he goes all Heath Bell and figures it out somewhere else. If he does, we’ll really know the issue is with Dan Warthen. 

This may be it for Parnell. It’s a shame because I’m really curious to see what might’ve been had he had a real rehab. 

Collins Can’t Find Relief

When your team loses big, it’s easy to overreact to the loss.  Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez did. They switched places in the ninth in an attempt to keep things interesting. Keith did a good job, but he was no Kidcaster

On Twitter, most people were upset with Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell. It’s understandable as neither one of them were good tonight. You know who was worse?  Terry Collins

We saw the bad Niese again tonight. We haven’t seen him this bad in quite a while. The last bad start he had was when he became a dad. Since then, he has been as prone to the complete meltdown. Maybe fatherhood has been agreeing with him. Anyway, he was bad to the tune of five innings with six earned. 

In the bottom of the fifth, the Mets got back into the game capped off by a Yoenis Cespedes three run homerun. Honestly, after the inning was over I assumed the Mets would beat up the Phillies bullpen and overcome the 6-4 deficit. However, the top of the sixth happened. 

Let’s start off with this. I know many people first guessed and said why Parnell in that spot. Many wanted to see Addison Reed there. I was okay with Parnell there so long as he was alright. Furthermore, Reed is supposed to be a part of the 7-8-9 tandem, and there was no need for him to go multiple innings tonight. 

If Parnell is going to contribute down the stretch and into the playoffs, he’s going to pitch the sixth inning. The problem is he wasn’t ready to return. He walked the first two batters he faced, and he threw the ball away on a bunt attempt. By the time he was done, his line was 0 innings pitched, three runs allowed, two earned, and two walks. Collins would then continue the poor managing. 

He would bring in Eric O’Flaherty to face the righty Darin Ruf. Do the Mets not supply Collins with his splits?  Does Collins have it out for O’Flaherty that he keeps setting him up to fail?  Did Collins think Ryan Howard was in the game?  I really don’t understand. After Ruf’s two RBI single, Collins would bring on Carlos Torres

Collins would then let Torres out to dry. After neither Parnell nor O’Flaherty recorded an out, Collins left Torres out there to finish the inning. The Phillies would hit him hard. Torres let up a walk and three hits. He would allowed three runs with two of them earned.

One of them was unearned because Ruben Tejada threw away a ball he had no business throwing. He could’ve been bailed out, but it was tough a hop for any first baseman, especially so for a part time one like Michael Cuddyer. At the end of the top of the sixth inning, the Phillies would lead 14-4. 

The Mets would tack on four runs to make the score look like a more palatable 14-8. Reed’s debut for the Mets was s highlight. He pitched a clean eighth that included a strikeout of Jeff Francoeur. Another highlight was the return of Erik Goeddel from the DL. He pitched a clean ninth. 

Look, the Mets are still 13-2 against the Phillies. You can’t go nuts over one loss unless it’s a season ending loss. The Mets are going to lose some games. The Nationals may even win tonight. That’s fine. The Mets still have a nice lead in the division with a weak schedule. If you want something to get upset about, look at Terry Collins. 

If the Mets do blow this, and I don’t think they will, Collins will be the culprit. The next time someone mentions him as a Manager of the Year candidate keep this game in mind. I know I will. 

Otherwise, you turn the page after a loss like this. Tomorrow becomes a rubber game that the Mets need to win. Luckyily, tomorrow is a Harvey Day

This is 2015

The Mets went a spectacular 20-8 in the month of August. It was a month that saw them start the month two games out and finish the month with a 6.5 game lead. The Mets record went from three games to 15 games over .500. How did that happen?

Some will tell you this is due to Terry Collins and his credentials as a Manager of the Year candidate. Some will point to the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes. Some will say the Mets season now has a 1986 or 2000 feel to it. These are lazy points. For fans that lived through those seasons, does this year feel anything like those seasons?  Of course, the answer is no. 

You want to know what is happening. The trade acquisitions have helped. Terry Collins has gone from the glue holding everything together to become their biggest liability.  So what was the biggest reason the Mets had a tremendous month?  It was an easy schedule. 

The a Mets had five series against last place teams in August. The combined winning percentage of the Mets’ August opponents currently stands at .471. If you eliminate the Pirates team that swept them at home, the winning percentage of the Mets’ August opponents is .451. You’re supposed to go 20-8 against that schedule. 

I’m not discounting August. If you’re a good team, you best the team’s you are supposed to beat. The Mets have done that. If they continue, they’ll win the division easily. The combined winning percentages of the Mets remaining opponents is .447. If you eliminate the Yankees, that winning percentage dips to .426. 

Hopefully, this information will put to rest any 2007/2008 talk we’re bound to hear if the Mets lose a couple of games. The narrative is lazy, and you see it everywhere. How about something fresh?  How about something along the lines of this season is bizarre, and we’re not likely to see another one like it?  

Each and every season is unique. When a winning one comes along, you should enjoy it. Enjoy the ride and don’t concern yourself with season’s past. Live in the moment. Embrace it. Don’t get wrapped up in prior years. Get wrapped up in this one. Lets Go Mets!

Where’s Dario Alvarez?

The Mets have announced what I presume is their first group of September call-ups. These players include Eric CampbellKevin PlaweckiKirk Nieuwenhuis, and Eric Young, Jr.  It’s fitting these four are the ones being called up first because they have a legitimate shot at being on the postseason roster, especially Plawecki. 

When I looked at this list, I was surprised that Dario Alvarez‘s name wasn’t on the list. With Eric O’Flaherty struggling and the Mets refusal to put Steven Matz in the bullpen, there are no lefty options. As the August 31st waiver trade deadline has passed, another one cannot be acquired. The Mets need to figure this out. 

The Las Vegas 51s season ends on the 7th. They’re in last place, so there won’t be any playoffs for them. The Mets apparently don’t care about the 51s season, and nor should they. That’s why they gutted their roster. Why they left Alvarez behind is beyond me. He’s been terrific in AAA. He is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and a 0.871 WHIP.  

Alvarez belongs in the majors, especially with the LOOGY problem unresolved. I don’t know that Alvarez is ready to be a LOOGY. I don’t know if O’Flaherty can fix his issues in September to become the LOOGY the Mets need in the playoffs. What I do know is the Mets need to figure something out soon. They could be facing Adrian GonzalezJason HeywardMatt CarpenterPedro Alvarez, and/or Anthony Rizzo. It would be nice to have a lefty to get those guys out. 

It’s funny with all the Mets moves, this is the one area they haven’t been able to properly address. I’d hate to see them LEFT out of October glory for that reason. 

UPDATE: it was pointed out to me by Jack Ramsey that Alvarez is not available to be called up until tomorrow. This post will be more pertinent tomorrow. 

Kidcaster

After having a son, one thing I’ve noticed is how much the Mets have become kid friendly.  One way that is especially true is the Kidcaster contest. 

It’s incredibly cool that a kid gets to do play-by-play for a half inning. It’s something I wish was available when I was a kid. I hope it will continue to be available when my son is old enough. 

The kid they chose this year, Dante Sasso, was terrific. He showed a knowledge of the game. He even dropped a Tommie Agee reference. That’s impressive. It was also impressive that Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez kept up their color duties and really helped this kid along. 

The Mets should be proud of themselves today. They continue to make this team kid friendly, and apparently, they’re developing a smart fan base. 

Wilmer Flores

Now batting for the New York Mets, the shortstop, Wilmer Flores!